Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Garden to Table, Bengali 5 Spice Eggplant, An Indian Take On Ratatouille.

5 spice vegetables
   I love Fall weather here in Sonoma, we still have warm days, yet the nights get chillier and chillier as we edge toward Deep Fall and Winter. This time of year always brings with it my very favorite vegetables, not the least among them Butternut Squash. When we planted our garden this year one of the first things I knew I wanted was Butternut Squash. It's one of the most versatile vegetable out there. I make soup, curries, ravioli filling, and koftas among other things. In my kitchen it runs the gamut from Indian food to Italian favorites for the family holidays.
   The Indian kitchen  has many recipes that call for squash and pumpkin. These two vegetables are pretty much interchangeable; most of the canned pumpkin we find in the markets is actually butternut squash.

    In fact Lord Google says: canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the pumpkins frequently carved as jack-o'-lanterns for decoration around Halloween.

Experiments with pumpkins can be spotty at best. I have stuffed and baked large whole pumpkins no problem, but when it comes to smaller items like vegetarian side dishes, curries, and koftas I prefer to rely on butternut squash.
   Our butternut squash harvest this year is immense!! Two plants have sent runners and squashes all over the backyard in a colonizing pattern. Harvesting is like tippy toeing through a mine field. I don't want to step on the squash or trip over the vines.  So, I carefully harvested a likely looking specimen.

Eggplants are bidding a fond farewell to the garden so we're using them up quickly along with the serrano chilies which are turning red. This is a real "use up what one has on hand" dish.

   I used eggplant, butternut squash, and potato, but you might try zucchini, pumpkin, whatever you have plenty of. Like the traditional French Ratatouille, this is a simple stewed vegetable dish but instead of adding the usual French spices, the Bengalis make their vegetable stew with a mixture of 5 spices, aka Panch Phoran , and there is the difference. A Panch Phoran is a mixture of roasted and ground spices, found in the Eastern regions of India, particularly Bangladesh. This is a great spice mixture to have on hand so make a bunch. Once your spices are toasted and mixed you're in business for future dishes.

Bengali 5 Spice Eggplant

Here's What You Need:
1 Eggplant
1 Butternut squash
1 large boiling potato ( I used a Yukon Gold)
2 dried red chilies broken in half (I use chile arbol from Rancho Gordo Foods)
1 Tbs Bengali 5 Spice Mixture *
2 Tbs vegetable oil. I use coconut oil
2 Tbs chopped fresh curry leaves. (if you don't have these leave them out for there is no substitute)
5 cups of mixed vegetables (eggplant pumpkin, squash, peas) cut up into 1 inch pieces
1 cup of peas fresh, or defrosted frozen
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Here's What To Do:
Make your five spice blend.

* Bengali 5 Spice Mixture (aka Panch Phoran mixture)
 Mix together
2/3 cup cumin seeds

1/3 cup fennel seeds
1/4 cup black mustard seeds

3 Tbs kalongi,aka nigella, aka black onion seeds
2 Tbs fenugreek seeds

Heat a cast iron pan
when the pan is hot put al of the spices in it.

Stir them around dry roasting them until they turn warm and fragrant. This takes about 2 minutes.
Let them cook then store them in an airtight jar.

This will make a LOT more of this spice mix than you need, so save it for other dishes. Bingo, Panch phoran!   Now back to the recipe.

Peel and cut your potato...


...and butternut squash into 1 inch pieces.

Mix the raw vegetables together and set them aside.
Take your chopped curry leaves, and  2 dried red chilies broken in half and set them aside.

In a skillet or kadhai heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil. I use Sonoma Harvest Organic Coconut Oil

When the oil is hot, toss in the dried red chili pieces.
Stir them around until they start to tuirn color, about 30 sconds is allit takes if you oil is hot.
Add the 5 spice powder (NOTE: You can grind the Tbs of spice powder before you add it, though I prefer to use the spices whole for this recipe.)

Add the chopped curry leaves and vegetables right away.

Stir everything around and cook the vegetables until they start to turn golden.

This takes about 10 minutes. If you need to add a bit more oil, to keep things from sticking, go ahead.
Once the vegetables have cooked down add the  paprika...

...salt, and sugar.

Mix it all together, turn down the heat and put a lid on things. If you are adding fresh peas put them in now. Cook for about 10 minutes. Check it every once in a while to stir things up make sure nothing's burning. If things start to get too dry you can add about 1/4 cup of water. About 5 minutes before you're done cooking; add the defrosted frozen peas if that's the type you're using.

When everything is tender; put it in a dish, chop the cilantro and sprinkle it over the vegetables and serve it up.

this is a delicious and simple dish than can be made with a lot of different vegetables: Just use what you have on hand. It goes from garden to table in about 1/2 hour and you can't beat that for healthy, fast food. Coming up next, something sweet. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Eggplant, Sweet and Sour Indian Style

   We have so many eggplants this year, in so many different varieties (yeah, I went a little nuts there) that I have been nearly at a loss as to what to do with them all.  Fortunately Indian cuisine loves the eggplant and there are at least five times as many recipes for eggplant as the eggplants in my garden, and that's going some. Every day when we take our lunch break from writing, I go out to the garden to see what's up and I usually come back with eggplant.

So, I've done them spiced, roasted, how about sweet and sour. Whoa, you only thought sweet and sour was found in Chinese recipes?  Well, the Indians do sweet and sour too and it's amazing. What I like about cooking these recipes is that they're very, very, quick. Once the eggplant has been rubbed with salt to remove the bitter juices, it's rinsed and then the quick part. It's microwaved for 4 minutes which makes it soft enough to work with but not fully cooked. Sweet and Sour Eggplant is fast enough to get on the table when you don't want to mess around too long in a hot kitchen which makes it a great end of Summer, early Fall weather dish.

Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Here's What You Need:
2 large or 5 small Japanese eggplants
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 shallot finely chopped
2 Serrano chilies finely minced, seeds and all.
1 Tbs tamarind paste (lemon juice can substitute but tamarind can be found in most supermarkets)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbs ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs crumbled jaggery (Indian palm sugar) or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp garam masala

Here's What To Do:
Wash and slice the eggplants on the diagonal.

Place them in a collender and sprinkle them with kosher salt.

Rub the salt into the eggplant slices and let them sit for about 10 minutes to let the bitter juices drain out.

Rinse the salt off the eggplant and you are good to go.

Place the eggplant in a microwave-safe bowl with a cover and cook it for 4 minutes.

 While that's happening, mince the Serrano chilies together with the shallot and set them aside.

Halve the onion and cut it into thin slices, set it aside.

Heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil, (I use coconut oil) in a skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot, toss in the cumin seed and cinnamon stick.

As soon as they start to sizzle, add the onion slices.

Cook the onion slices until they start to turn golden. This takes about 8 minutes.
Add in the Serrano chilies and shallot.

Stir everything around well and saute it for about 30 seconds.
Take everything out of the kadhai and  into a bowl and set it aside.

Add the cooked eggplant to the pan.

Stir it around. This won't take long because you've already precooked it in the microwave. Had you not done this, the next step would take about 15 minutes or so to get the eggplant nice and soft.
Add the onion mixture back into the pan along with the ground coriander, cumin, and salt.

Cover the pan reduce the heat and cook for about 3 minutes to make sure all the flavors have blended.
Add in the tamarind paste (or lemon juice)...

...and the jaggery or brown sugar.

Mix everything around then toss in your chopped fresh cilantro.

Check the seasoning, and add more salt if you need to.
 Other than that...that's it.
You can serve it up.

This dish goes well with just a simple Basmati rice dish, and some chapatti, or it can also accompany any Western style meal. Even my eggplant (let's not say hating) husband liked this dish, and all the eggplants that have been set before him are starting to win him over. Actually I think he;s just relieved because of everything we planted this spring the only thing that didn't come up ...was the okra. So he's feeling pretty welll....good might be the word.

   Coming up next.,. the butternut squash is here, and there are a lot of fast and easy ways to cook those monsters. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fast Cooking For Hot Days. Indian Spiced Eggplant With Cilantro.

   We're moving into the dog days here in Sonoma. Even though we have our burst of heat waves during the Summer months, as it gets closer to Harvest Season in the vineyards, daytime temperatures start to soar. Evenings here are getting crisp and cool but the time of day when most of the cooking is getting done still can be too hot to handle. So what do the smart ones do when the kitchen is the homes' hot spot and not in a good way? I mean besides going out to eat... we look for things that can be cooked quickly and easily which brings me to eggplant.

   Growing up in an Italian household and spending the last 25 years cooking Indian food, eggplant is not something I associate with speed. My experience with eggplant usually involves smoking, or soaking or some combination of that but an eggplant dish that can be put on the table with a minimum of fuss and bother and no soaking...???? I'm in. Which brings me to this Indian dish with a modern twist aka The Microwave. I'm not a big "Science Oven" user but I have found lately that they can come in handy when speed is of the essence..as long as there's no metal involved.

This handy device makes this dish one of those straight from garden to table  in 30 minutes or less miracles.

Indian Spiced Eggplant With Cilantro

Here's What You Need:
 2 Japanese eggplants (aka lumbae baingan or long eggplant)
2 Tbs vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)
1 tsp cumin seed
1/4 tsp crushed fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 large shallot finely chopped
2 serrano chilies finely chopped
1 Tbs chopped curry leaves (optional if you don't have any)
1 Tbs ground coriander
1 tsp chopped mint
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp mango powder aka Amchur powder (lemon juice is a substitute)

Here's What to Do:
 I went to the garden an got myself a coupe of Japanese eggplants.

Yes, those are eggplants in my pocket and I am happy to see you! Since we try to be as thrifty as we possibly can with our water use, we were excited when the nice people at Rain Machine sent
us an HD 12 model.

This nifty device works with one's drip irrigation system (a must in California drought country) and  connects with NOAA via WiFi every 6 minutes to deliver the most accurate weather information available. Thus, it saves water by automatically tailoring water flow in real time to weather conditions.

When we bought our house we made it as environmentally efficient as possible, meeting CalGreen standards for energy and water use. We took out all lawns and xeriscaped with drought tolerant plants, We have a drip system for our property and our vegetable growing beds. So when we received this device we were pretty excited. We haven't installed it yet because we still have to set the baseline for our vegetables and fruit but we are pretty stoked to try this thing out as anything we can do to save water, we will. Anyway, I think the eggplants are going to like it!

Meanwhile back to the recipe.  Wash and cut your eggplants on the diagonal, no soaking or salting necessary.

Place the eggplant slices in a microwaveable dish, cover it, and pop them in your science oven for about 4 minutes.

While they're cooking, chop the shallot.

Place the fneugreek seeds in a mortar and coarsely crush them.

Finely chop the serrano chilies.

Get your spices ready.

Meanwhile heat  2 Tbs of oil in a skillet or khadi.

When the oil is hot toss in the shallot, fenugreek, cumin, mustard seeds, and chilies.

The spices, chili, and shallot will sizzle when they hit the hot oil.
Add in the curry leaves if you have them, mint, coriander, salt, and turmeric.

Saute them for about 30 seconds then add in your cooked eggplant.

Cook with the spices, mixing everything well for about 2 minutes, then place a lid on things, turn down the heat and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the eggplant is tender.

Snip yourself some cilantro.

Chop it up and sprinkle it over the dish.

Mix in the mango powder or lemon juice and serve it up.

This is pretty dang easy. Like 20 minutes easy!!! It's also spicy and delicious. I like to serve this stuff in my earthenware casuelas from Spain. I get these locally from Salsa Trading Company  

They have a whole kingdom of clay over there! So if you're in Sonoma you're likely going to find me in there at some point in the day fondling pots.

    I really like this thing of growing my own vegetables, two steps out the back door and I've got lunch or dinner. I did go a little overboard on the eggplants this year and don't even mention the army of butternut squash as big as my head. The one thing I planted that didn't take was okra, Alan's thanking his lucky stars it never grew...but there's always next year!!!!!   Coming up next, more harvest vegetables for the Fall season. Follow along on Twitter@kathygori


Blog Widget by LinkWithin